Turkish parliament pushing bill to approve troop deployment in Qatar
In response to the greatest unrest in the Gulf region in decades, Turkey is fulfilling its two-year-old promise to reaffirm its military presence in Qatar.
| Ankara, Turkey
Turkey's parliament is expected to fast-track on Wednesday a draft bill allowing its troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar, officials from the ruling AK Party and the nationalist opposition said.
The move appears to support the Gulf Arab country as it faces diplomatic and trade isolation from some of the biggest Middle Eastern powers. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and closed their airspace to commercial flights on Monday, charging it with financing militant groups.
Qatar vehemently denies the accusations. It is the worst split between powerful Arab states in decades.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has criticized the Arab states' move, saying isolating Qatar and imposing sanctions will not resolve any problems and adding that Ankara will do everything in its power to help end the crisis.
Turkey has maintained good relations with Qatar as well as several of its Gulf Arab neighbors. Turkey and Qatar have both provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
Lawmakers from Mr. Erdogan's AK Party have proposed debating two pieces of legislation: allowing Turkish troops to be deployed in Qatar and approving an accord between the two countries on military training cooperation, AKP and nationalist opposition officials said.
Both draft bills, which were drawn up before the spat between Qatar and its Arab neighbors erupted, are expected to be approved by the Ankara parliament later on Wednesday.
Turkey set up a military base in Qatar, its first such installation in the Middle East, as part of an agreement signed in 2014. In 2016 Ahmet Davutoglu, then Turkish prime minister, visited the base where 150 troops have already been stationed, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.
In an interview with Reuters in late 2015, Ahmet Demirok, Turkey's ambassador to Qatar at the time, said 3,000 ground troops would eventually be deployed at the base, planned to serve primarily as a venue for joint training exercises.